I want to relate a recent experience that draws parallels to dealership service-department customers.

When I visit a dealership, it is normally to work with a dealer, not as a customer. But when my wife asked me to take her car in for a recall and minor repair, I agreed.

Asking if she had an appointment, she told me I should schedule it to fit my schedule. This is where the story begins.

I called the number and immediately recognized the fact that I had reached a call center. My request for an appointment was handled immediately and professionally.

Prior to ending the call, I asked which company employed the scheduler and he quickly responded.  I complimented him on the manner in which he had handled my request and ended the call.

The following morning, I arrived at the dealership and was promptly greeted by a service adviser.  My first positive impression came when, prior to inviting me to his desk for the writeup, he actually did a walk-around of the vehicle and checked the tread depth of my tires. 

So far, so good; he’s doing what an astute service adviser is supposed to do. Just as we were leaving the vehicle, a young man approached, took the vehicle and drove it to an alignment rack located at the end of the writeup area.

We went to the writeup desk, clean and uncluttered, where he quickly referenced the vehicle’s service history and found everything up to date except for the current recall.

I then described the minor repair issue. He noted it on the repair order. Then he briefly explained the recall and the process they would employ to correct it. 

As we were completing the writeup, the young man who had taken the vehicle to the alignment rack returned with a printout. I was shown the report and told the vehicle’s alignment was out of adjustment. Without pressure, the adviser explained the benefit of a proper alignment. I accepted his realignment offer.

After signing the repair order and discussing repair timing, the adviser took me to the customer lounge, introduced me to a hostess who offered me coffee and the like.

Remembering my “Ritz-Carlton training” I was totally impressed that the adviser would take me to the lounge instead of merely pointing to where it was. Seamlessly, the hostess took ownership of me and told me she would ensure I was contacted as soon as the shuttle driver was available to drive me home. 

Later in the afternoon, the adviser called to tell me the vehicle repairs were complete. He reviewed the price and told me the car was ready to be picked up at my convenience.

Arriving at the dealership, I approached the adviser, thanked him for his assistance and gave him my credit card. He quickly processed my payment and walked me to my car. This entire process took less than 10 minutes.

Why do I share this personal story?  Because when discussing service and customer-satisfaction issues during dealer group meetings, the topic often touches on the service adviser’s relationship with customers. 

Today’s customers expect more and have a low tolerance for delays or issues. So a competent and professional service adviser and process is essential. 

I’m convinced that a big part of an adviser’s success or failure hinges on whether a positive customer relationship is established quickly. The professionalism of the advisers determines whether this relationship is positive or negative.     

I personally know the dealer whose service department took care of my car. But the adviser doesn’t know me and has no idea I have any knowledge about this business. So I assume the manner in which he handled my business is the way he handles all his customers.

By the way, this is not a luxury-import dealership, the kind known for pampering customers. So this positive experience reinforces my belief that dealerships in general are doing what it takes to satisfy and keep customers.

Good selling!

Tony Noland of Tony Noland & Associates is a veteran dealership consultant. He can be reached at tonynolandandassociates.com.